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Boston Globe: Mass. nurses among those protesting president, Treasury secretary today

Mass. nurses among those protesting president, Treasury secretary today

11/03/2011 4:00 AM

By Tracy Jan, Globe Staff

WASHINGTON – More than 150 Massachusetts nurses will join hundreds of other protesters outside the US Treasury Department this morning to urge President Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to support a financial transaction tax on Wall Street.

The protest is timed to coincide with the start of the G-20 Summit of world leaders in Cannes, France, where nurses from Australia, Ireland, France, Korea, and the United States – including a delegation from National Nurses United – will also be demonstrating.

The national nurses union said it has been advocating since the spring for a tax on trades of stocks, bonds, derivatives, and other financial transactions that would target large banks and investment firms because of their roles in causing the economic collapse.

A tax of 0.5 percent could discourage excessive Wall Street speculation and raise between $175 to $350 billion each year, depending on trading volume, said UMass Amherst economist Robert Pollin.

The nurses argue that money could be put towards universal healthcare, job creation, and public education.

The United States had a financial transaction tax from 1914 until 1966, and politicians such as Bob Dole and former president George H.W. Bush endorsed its reinstatement following the 1987 Wall Street crash.

While more than a dozen countries have adopted a financial transaction tax and the European Union is considering it, the nurses chided Geithner for opposing the tax during a recent meeting with European finance ministers.

Critics of the tax say it hurt the country’s economic competitiveness, but the nurses say they are front-line witnesses to the toll the economic turmoil has taken on patients.

“We’re seeing the fallout from the economy every day, watching people who need lifesaving tests and treatments who aren’t having them done because they don’t have insurance or can’t pay the co-pays because they’ve lost their jobs,” said Karen Higgins, an ICU nurse at the Boston Medical Center who is co-president of National Nurses United. “A tax on the high rollers on Wall Street could help people get back on their feet instead of cutting services that are keeping people’s heads above water.”

In Washington, protestors from the Occupy Wall Street movement, community activists, and members of the AFL-CIO are expected to participate.

Following the protest, the nurses plan to head to Capitol Hill to lobby Congress in the afternoon.

As they march past the White House, a spokesman said they plan to hold up signs saying, “Heal America. Tax Timmy’s Friends.”

Tracy Jan can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GlobeTracyJan.